Pet safety: Protect your best friend from holiday hazards

With the holiday season upon us, many pet owners plan to include their best friends in the festivities. 

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMA) are warning pet parents to steer pets clear of unhealthy treats, toxic plants and dangerous decorations.

Avoid food dangers:
Chocolate is toxic to both cats and dogs. "Although the toxicity can vary based on the type of chocolate, the size of your pet, and the amount they ate, it's safer to consider all chocolate off limits for pets," according to AVMA.

Other sweets and baked goods should also be kept out of reach. Anything sweetened with xylitol is potentially toxic. The artificial sweetener can be found in candy, chewing gum and some baked goods.

Leftovers, and bones shouldn't be fed to your furry friends. According to AVMA, turkey and turkey skin can cause pancreatitis in pets.

Table scraps from extra-rich holiday foods can be especially fattening to pets. Onions, raisins and grapes are also poisonous.

Yeast dough can cause problems for pets, including painful gas and potentially dangerous bloating.

Be careful with alcoholic drinks. If ingested, your pet could become weak, ill and may even go into a coma, possibly resulting in death from respiratory failure, according to the ASPCA.

If you're looking for special treats for your pet's stockings, select chew toys that are indestructible. Get healthy foods or chew treats that are designed to be safely digestible. Give cats a new ball that's too big to swallow.

Avoid decoration dangers:
Secure Christmas trees to avoid it tipping over. Also avoid spilling tree water, which may have fertilizers that can cause stomach upsets. Stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria, and your pet could end up with nausea or diarrhea, according to the ASPCA.

Amaryllis, mistletoe, balsam, pine, cedar, and holly are among the common holiday plants that can be dangerous and even poisonous to pets. The ASPCA has a list of plants that are toxic to dogs and cats.

Tinsel can be tempting for cats. If swallowed though, it can cause intestinal blockages. 

Breakable ornaments can damage your pet's mouth and digestive tract.

Never leave pets alone with lit candles. Electric lights can also cause burns and electrical shock if pets decide to chew on them. Unplug decorations when you're not around.

What if you're hosting a party?
Make sure pets have a quiet place they can retreat to, away from the party commotion. Pets that are nervous around visitors, should be put in another room, or a crate, with a favorite toy.

Inform your guests that you have pets, or if other guests are bringing pets to your house. 

Watch them closely, especially when people are entering or leaving the house, in case they sneak out. Make sure your pet has proper identification with current contact information.

Noisy poppers and fireworks can terrify pets and cause possible damage to sensitive ears.

What if you're traveling?
Get your pet used to traveling in the car ahead of time. Use a secure harness or a carrier, placed in a location clear of airbags. Never leave your pets alone in the car, in any weather.

Give them a toy or treat to help keep them occupied during the trip.

The ASPCA suggests using a block of ice as an alternative to a water bowl to keep your pet hydrated and reduce spills.

Even if traveling by car, interstate and international travel regulations require any pet you bring with you to have a health certificate from your veterinarian.

If traveling by plane, talk to your veterinarian first. According to the AVMA, air travel can put some pets at risk, especially short-nosed dogs. 

If boarding your dog, AVMA suggests you speak to your veterinarian and find out how to best protect your pet from contagious diseases.

More pet safety resources:
ASPCA Poison Control Hotline: 1-888-426-4435
Dogs: Toxic and non-toxic plant list
Cats: Toxic and non-Toxic plant list
Traveling with Your Pet

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